A Place that Moves People (the future QueensWay)
Photographic series, artist book and public walk commissioned by the Trust for Public Land
Intersecting the neighborhoods of Rego Park, Forest Hills, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, Ozone Park and South Ozone Park, there is a thin strip of land that was once a railway. An unavoidable part of the landscape, it has been dormant for decades. Today it is more an extension of the natural world than of the built environment. The trackside landscape is the actual backyard of hundreds of homes, it is a place to walk dogs, feed stray cats, watch birds, dump garbage and it provides the perfect cover for young people who want to avoid adults. It is also something to wonder about. A section of the railway in Forest Park has been publicly accessible for years, but there are no signs or sanctioned woodchip paths and walking there feels like breaking the rules. The remaining three miles of landscape are only accessible by a few intrepid locals, who know the access points, footpaths and the easiest fences to climb.
Gestures and interactions between people and the future QueensWay are easily overlooked. Most visible flat surfaces have murals, tags, artful graffiti or signage. Several sections of the drab cement walls below the tracks have had colorful makeovers. Some fences and dead ends have a loose corner or hole that makes continuing on foot possible. Someone made and installed a wind chime made out of heavy steel pipes. On the surrounding streets residents tend to potted plants, care for community gardens, decorate their stoops and bay windows, feed birds and show they care in countless little ways.